The Italian Regional Cookbook – Valentina Harris

When your father is an English army officer and your mother, an Italian countess, naturally you grow up in a Tuscan castle with all the accruements of same. Such was Valentina Harris’ fate to while away the days wandering through vineyards, olive groves, vegetable gardens, and slaughtering chickens. Yes, slaughtering chickens – she could slaughter a chicken by 8 years of age. Beppino, the family chef, was her mentor in the kitchen and was the start of her path to a career in the culinary arts.

Valentina Harris has taught cooking in both Italy and London for forty years and authored over thirty award-winning cookery books. Her latest The Italian Regional Cookbook is a compilation of her Food and Cooking series and shares the recipes from these titles: Tuscany & Umbria; Milan & North-East; Rome & Central; Venice & North-East; Sicily and the South. It is a beautiful addition to anyone’s library especially those enamored with this cuisine. Filled with stunning photographs (including step-by-step process photos on some techniques), historic narrative regarding the recipes and area, and dishes from all corners of Italy, this massive tome of over 600 pages of approachable classic recipes is sure to please any level cook.

Special thanks to the publisher for sharing two recipes with our members today. Be sure to add those to your bookshelf. Scroll down to our contest to enter a chance to win one of three copies of this title open to US, CA and UK members.


Roman cheese and ham fritters
Panzerotti alla Romana
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Probably one of the earliest recipes from the culinary history of the great city of Rome, these rich and savoury dough fritters would traditionally be served as an antipasto or a snack; at some time in their history they were probably cooked as street food and sold from sizzling cauldrons of boiling oil to hungry passers-by. You can vary the contents of the filling according to personal taste; for example, mozzarella or scamorza can be used instead of the Gruyère, and salami or cooked ham could be used instead of the prosciutto crudo.

Serves 4

  • 115g/4oz/1 cup finely cubed Gruyère cheese
  • 75g/3oz/3 /4 cup chopped prosciutto crudo
  • 25ml/1 1 /2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 300g/1 1oz/2 2 /3 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 50g/2oz/1 /4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten until frothy
  • sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • sea salt and ground black pepper

1 Mix the cubed cheese with the prosciutto, Parmesan cheese and the beaten whole egg. Season with a little salt and ground black pepper, and set aside until required.

2 Put the flour in a mound on the work surface. Plunge your fist into the centre to make a hollow. Put a pinch of salt, the butter and the egg yolks into the hollow. Blend together with your fingertips, adding 30-45ml/2-3 tbsp cold water, if necessary.

3 When you have achieved a smooth ball of dough, roll it out as thinly as possible.

4 Use a 5cm/2in pastry (cookie) cutter or inverted tumbler to cut out circles of dough.

5 Put a spoonful of the cheese mixture on to each circle and fold in half. Brush the edges with a little beaten egg white, and seal the panzerotti closed.

6 Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep pan until a small piece of the pastry, dropped into the oil, sizzles instantly. Fry the panzerotti for 5 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.

7 Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.


Sicilian fig pastries
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The sticky, nutty, Sicilian sweetmeat that forms the centre of these pastries is also wonderful on its own or with salty Pecorino cheese. About one-tenth of the sweetmeat will be used to fill the pastries in this recipe, but there is no point making it in small batches as it keeps extremely well for up to a year, so store the rest in your refrigerator. The flavour develops and changes over the months, as the mixture ferments gently with the monthly addition of the dessert wine.

Makes about 24 

  • 200g/7oz/scant 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 400g/14oz/2 cups caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 eggs or 4 egg yolks, well beaten
  • 30ml/2 tbsp milk
  • 5ml/1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 500g/1 1⁄4lb/4 1⁄2 cups plain (all-purpose) white flour
  • 10ml/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3ml/1⁄2 tsp salt

For the sweetmeat

  • 450g/1lb/2 2⁄3 cups hard dried figs
  • 450g/1lb/2 2⁄3 cups sultanas (golden raisins) or raisins
  • 115g/4oz/1 cup shelled walnuts
  • 115g/4oz/1 cup blanched almonds
  • 500g/1 1⁄4lb/2 cups clear honey
  • 300ml/1⁄2 pint/1 1⁄4 cups sweet dessert wine or sherry
  • finely grated rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • finely grated rind of 1 unwaxed orange

1 First make the sweetmeat. Put the figs and sultanas or raisins in a bowl with water to cover. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain the soaked fruit and transfer the mixture to a pan. Pour over fresh water to cover. Bring to simmering point and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften. Allow to cool.

2 Chop the walnuts and almonds finely in a food processor. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

3 Drain the figs and sultanas and process them briefly in a food processor until chopped, but not puréed. With the motor running, add the honey and half the wine or sherry through the feeder tube. Process until mixed. Remove the lid from the food processor and add the grated lemon and orange rind to the mixture. Replace the lid and process until reasonably smooth.

4 Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, add the chopped nuts and mix well, adding more wine or sherry as needed. The consistency should be medium to dry.

5 Set aside 90-120ml/6-8 tbsp of the mixture and spoon the rest into a plastic container, close the lid securely and store in the refrigerator (see Cook’s Tips).

6 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease 2 baking sheets. Put the butter in a bowl and beat it with a wooden spoon until creamed. Beat in the sugar, eggs or egg yolks, milk and vanilla extract, adding a little flour if the mixture shows signs of curdling.

7 Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix to a soft dough. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

8 Using a teaspoon, scoop up a little of the mixture. Roll into a ball and place on one of the baking sheets, then press the top to flatten it to a round. Repeat with the remaining mixture, leaving room for spreading. Spoon a little of the sweetmeat on to each round and pull up the edges to partially cover the filling.

9 Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Leave on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and sprinkle with caster sugar. Leave to cool.

COOK’S TIPS • If your food processor does not have a powerful motor, chop the nuts roughly with a knife before processing them. • The sweetmeat will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year, provided about 5ml/1 tsp dessert wine or sherry is stirred in once a month to keep the mixture moist and lightly fermented.

The publisher is offering three copies of this book to EYB Members in the US, CA and UK. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won’t be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on April 23rd, 2018.

Post a comment


  • MadMom  on  March 14, 2018

    I love the Roman Cheese and Ham Fritters!

  • Angryyew  on  March 14, 2018

    Always like to try out new pizza dough recipes.

  • heyjude  on  March 14, 2018

    Baked Peaches

  • FaithB  on  March 14, 2018

    I'm hearing about bread dumplings lately so would like to try those.

  • Kristjudy  on  March 14, 2018

    Gnocchi with Gorgonzola

  • Zosia  on  March 14, 2018

    Sardinian saffron risotto.

  • ravensfan  on  March 14, 2018

    Barolo risotto (Risotto al Barolo)

  • Frogcake  on  March 14, 2018

    Calabrian sweet and sour meatballs. Yum, yum!

  • Scotsman61  on  March 14, 2018

    Roman Cheese and Ham Fritters

  • jmay42066  on  March 14, 2018

    Chicken Marengo (Pollo alla Marengo)

  • jezpurr  on  March 14, 2018

    The fritters!!!^_^

  • miggsy  on  March 14, 2018

    Those fig pastries look wonderful!

  • cake17uk  on  March 15, 2018

    Grilled polenta with mushrooms (Crostini di polenta con funghi) – sounds delicious

  • hedder14  on  March 15, 2018

    Beetroot dumplings. The recipes all sound devine.

  • amandabeck  on  March 15, 2018

    Ragu– I need a good sauce recipe!

    But it all sounds amazing.

  • Mayandbill  on  March 15, 2018

    Torta di zuchetti for me. Valentina brought out one of the first UK books on Italian food and I remember her TV series from my childhood. It seemed so exotic!

  • stef  on  March 15, 2018

    Salsa Verde with salmon

  • vickster  on  March 15, 2018

    Courgette Tart

  • dbielick  on  March 15, 2018

    Cold veal with tuna mayonnaise (Vitello tonnato)

  • abihamm  on  March 15, 2018

    Pear and amaretti tarts

  • lean1  on  March 15, 2018

    Chicken Marengo

  • kmn4  on  March 15, 2018

    Chestnut, cream and chocolate mountain (Il Montebianco)

  • janv  on  March 15, 2018

    Scamorza crostini (Crostini con la scamorza)

  • matag  on  March 15, 2018

    Lamb and pork pie

  • contest718  on  March 15, 2018

    Orecchiette and Frittata with fresh herbs

  • ktwalla  on  March 15, 2018

    Cheese and Walnut Patties

  • sarahawker  on  March 15, 2018

    Risotto of the Serene Republic guards

  • LMS209  on  March 15, 2018

    candied fruit and nut roll 🙂

  • Siegal  on  March 15, 2018

    Fig pastries sounds goods

  • amferrer  on  March 16, 2018

    I would love to try the basic tomato sauce – I am always interested to try a new technique!

  • rchesser  on  March 16, 2018

    Pear and amaretti tarts.

  • FireRunner2379  on  March 16, 2018

    I'd like to make the Honey-coated fritters, YUMMY!

  • boulder42  on  March 16, 2018

    Gnocchi with Gorgonzola sounds good

  • LaurenE  on  March 16, 2018

    Fig pastries

  • trudys_person  on  March 16, 2018

    Calabrian lemon tart (Crostata alla crema di limone) – I always go for the lemon dessert!

  • Steben  on  March 16, 2018

    Soft ricotta gnocchi (Gnocchi con la fioretta)

  • centraljersey  on  March 17, 2018

    Chicken with juniper for a change

  • Livia  on  March 17, 2018

    The fig pastries look amazing ! 🙂

  • antpantsii  on  March 17, 2018

    Barolo risotto.

  • lindaeatsherbooks  on  March 18, 2018

    I would love to try making the Parmesan and truffle canapés (Tartine al Parmigiano Reggiano).

  • lapsapchung  on  March 18, 2018

    Cheese and mushroom cannelloni

  • suebon  on  March 18, 2018

    Chicken Marango

  • siobhanv  on  March 18, 2018

    The jota of Trieste. I love the idea of Italian cuisine meets Central Europe…

  • mpdeb98  on  March 18, 2018

    Tuscan honey cookies

  • Whyvette  on  March 18, 2018

    I love to eat ossobucco, but have never attempted to make it, so it would have to be Stewed ossobucco (Ossobuco in umido).

  • Ishtar  on  March 18, 2018

    Calabrian rabbit and red pepper stew

  • Singleta417  on  March 18, 2018

    Frittata with fresh herbs.

  • sgump  on  March 19, 2018

    The pear and amaretti tarts (crostate di pere d'amaretti) sound lovely!

  • robynsanyal  on  March 21, 2018

    Chicken Marengo (Pollo alla Marengo)

  • monique.potel  on  March 21, 2018

    Smooth Ligurian fish soup (Ciuppin)

    i tasted this years ago i would love to make it

  • EmilyR  on  March 21, 2018

    Soft ricotta gnocchi (Gnocchi con la fioretta)

  • infotrop  on  March 21, 2018

    Venetian-style Treviso radicchio sounds like a great side dish.

  • munki  on  March 22, 2018

    Definitely the Bagna caoda con peperoni.

  • RachLFinn  on  March 23, 2018

    Vicenza-style stewed cabbage (Cavolo alla Vicentina)

  • sipa  on  March 23, 2018

    The Roman cheese and ham fritters
    Panzerotti alla Romana are calling my name

  • JenJoLa  on  March 24, 2018

    Cheese and walnut patties (Polpettine di formaggio con le noci)

  • choppergirl  on  March 25, 2018

    Classic Milanese risotto (Risotto alla Milanese classico)

  • RSW  on  March 25, 2018

    Gnocchi with Gorgonzola (Gnocchi al Gorgonzola)

  • Uhmandanicole  on  March 26, 2018

    Classic Milanese risotto (Risotto alla Milanese classico)

  • ebs  on  March 27, 2018

    Wholemeal and oat rolls

  • shaz4  on  March 28, 2018

    Tuscan honey cookies (I cavallucci) – taking me straight back to my first trip to Italy last summer.

  • AnnaZed  on  March 28, 2018

    Salsa peverada

  • t.t  on  March 29, 2018

    Sweet-and-sour fried sardines (Sarde in saor)

  • chasteph  on  March 29, 2018

    Sicilian fig pastries for me!

  • topdawg11  on  March 30, 2018

    Rabbit antipasta

  • lgroom  on  March 30, 2018

    Pork cooked in milk

  • jPalacios7132  on  March 30, 2018

    Panzeritti alla Romana and Fig Pastries, The Best!!!

  • fbrunetti  on  March 30, 2018

    Monkfish wrapped in Parma ham

  • Coffeebean  on  March 30, 2018

    Tucsan boney cookies

  • Dannausc  on  March 30, 2018

    Cheese and mushroom cannelloni (Cannelloni ai funghi e formaggio)

  • Larkspur  on  March 30, 2018


  • mrscahughes  on  March 30, 2018

    Antipasta of any type.

  • kitchen_chick  on  March 30, 2018

    Anchovy and white fish ravioli

  • vickiec  on  March 30, 2018

    Fonduta alla piemontese…buonissimo

  • lisambb  on  March 30, 2018

    Cheese and ham fritters

  • bcarpenter  on  March 30, 2018

    cheese and walnut patties

  • Phizz_17  on  March 30, 2018


  • BMeyer  on  March 30, 2018

    baked peaches

  • deucemom  on  March 30, 2018

    Puglia lamb casserole (Cutturiedde)

  • Aproporpoise  on  March 30, 2018

    Mushroom and meat Sardinian Empanadas

  • tomroper  on  March 31, 2018

    The fritters, I think. I prefer my figs raw

  • chimpbob  on  March 31, 2018

    Roman cheese and ham fritters

  • RickPearson54  on  March 31, 2018


  • Brancica  on  March 31, 2018

    I'd make orecchietti. Love italian food

  • mcrimmins  on  March 31, 2018


  • Curlyfatkins  on  March 31, 2018

    Rice and sausages (Riso e luganega)

  • kennethjohngilmour  on  March 31, 2018

    would start with the basic pizza dough found on page 61

  • SusySlais  on  March 31, 2018

    I would definitely try the Sicilian Fig Pastries (Cuccidati) because I love, love, love figs!!! 🙂

  • recipegenie  on  March 31, 2018

    Always in search of pizza dough recipes.

  • Julia  on  March 31, 2018

    Salsa perverada

  • LizyB  on  March 31, 2018

    Gnocchi al Gorgonzola

  • PeavineBlues  on  April 1, 2018

    Gnocchi al Ricotta

  • Foodycat  on  April 1, 2018

    Oh those ham & cheese pastries!

  • jim.windle  on  April 1, 2018

    Parmesan and truffle canapes!

  • amyjay  on  April 1, 2018

    gnocchi al ricotta

  • TRACY007  on  April 1, 2018

    Love the sound of the ROMAN CHEESE AND HAM FRITTERS. Although a very hard decision as love Italian food.

  • Shelley.b  on  April 1, 2018

    Roman cheese and ham fritters

  • eboos  on  April 1, 2018

    Pears poached in red wine. Yum!!

  • Jenamarie  on  April 2, 2018

    Lamb with black truffle (Agnello al tartufo nero)

  • babiafi  on  April 2, 2018

    I'd try the pear and amaretti tarts 🙂

  • Holisticrmp  on  April 2, 2018

    I would like to try the Chicken Marengo recipe.

  • love2chow  on  April 2, 2018

    Beetroot dumplings (Spaetzle)
    Tuscan bean and cabbage soup (La ribollita)

  • mllamas  on  April 2, 2018

    I have baked goods on my mind, the Sardinian focaccia twist ("Nfigghiulata) sounds like a great place to start!

  • cake17uk  on  April 2, 2018

    Venetian spiced biscuits sound so good

  • TanyaD  on  April 2, 2018

    Parmesan and truffle canapés (Tartine al Parmigiano Reggiano)

  • ennsee  on  April 2, 2018

    I'd try the Gnocchi with Gorgonzola (Gnocchi al Gorgonzola) first.

  • sdg8trgrl  on  April 2, 2018

    White ragu with garganelli

  • Karla123  on  April 2, 2018

    Tuscan grape-harvest focaccia…I adore this bread already!

  • Teruska  on  April 3, 2018

    Cheese and mushroom cannelloni ~ Vegetarian and hearty!

  • Username123321  on  April 3, 2018

    Chicken marengo.

  • RoseMGenuine  on  April 4, 2018

    Ligurian seafood salad

  • auntietina  on  April 7, 2018

    Salsa Peverada. I'd love to surprise some friends with that one.

  • jc214a  on  April 8, 2018

    Baked Peaches.

  • ltsuk  on  April 10, 2018

    ragu Bolognese

  • madelainelc  on  April 10, 2018

    Venetian fritters sound interesting

  • amylou61  on  April 11, 2018

    I'd try the Lasagna with pesto and potatoes (Lasagna al pesto con le patate).

  • kedmiston  on  April 12, 2018

    Cheese and walnut patties (Polpettine di formaggio con le noci)

  • shellee  on  April 15, 2018

    Recco's olive oil focaccia sounds yummy!

  • rachael_mc  on  April 15, 2018

    Risotto with trout (Risotto con le trote)

  • NaomiH  on  April 16, 2018

    Cheese skewers with anchovy sauce (Spiedini di provatura)

  • Carolyn99  on  April 16, 2018

    Giant beetroot and mascarpone ravioli (ravioloni Rosa)

  • Lmocooks  on  April 16, 2018

    Grilled polenta with mushrooms

  • nesshawk  on  April 16, 2018

    Anchovy Fritters – I am a wee bit anchovy obsessed

  • matag  on  April 17, 2018

    Chicken MERANGO

  • VeryVigario  on  April 17, 2018

    Gnocchi with Gorgonzola

  • Radley  on  April 18, 2018

    Roman Cheese and Ham Fritters

  • PaulaCheadle  on  April 19, 2018

    I think I would try the Baked Peaches first, as I love them

  • MumofMags  on  April 20, 2018

    The anchovy fritters look amazing, I would go for this

  • ruthwollerton  on  April 20, 2018

    Roman cheese and Ham Fritters – yummytastic xxx

  • deanfromuk  on  April 20, 2018

    I love juniper so I would try the chicken with juniper <3

  • orchidlady01  on  April 21, 2018

    Tuscan bean and cabbage soup (La ribollita)

  • littleminxgirl  on  April 23, 2018

    I'm still trying to find the perfect pizza dough recipe

  • lebarron2001  on  April 23, 2018

    Grilled Mixed Seafood

  • bettinab  on  April 23, 2018

    Bagna Calda with peppers

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!